How to Pack a Carry On/Weekend Bag Efficiently


If you find yourself embarking on a short trip (say anything less than 4 days), your best bet is to pack a carry on for the following reasons:

1) You save so much time at the airport, not having to check in and pick up your luggage.

2) You can also save money as some airlines will charge you an extra fee to check in a bag.

3) Most importantly, less things to carry and less things to worry about!

Now that you understand the benefits of packing a carry on, now it’s time to learn how to pack one in an efficient and effective manner.

how to pack, carry on, weekend bag, efficiently, outfits, plan, coordinate, organized1) Coordinate Outfits for each Day

For this particular trip I was going to Orlando for 4-5 days. I would need the following:

4 different day outfits

1 nice outfit for a night out (try to pair an existing top from one of your day outfits with a fancy skirt or bottoms to save space)

1 sleeping outfit (pj bottoms and top)

1 travel outfit (jacket and sweater combo works best)

Tips for Coordinating Outfits:

  • Check the weather for the destination and days you will be traveling.
  • Consider the types of activities you will be participating in. Are you going to be outside a lot? Attending parties? Lying around on a beach or poolside?
  • Prepare for the worst case scenarios. Rain, snow, stains whatever!

travel outfit, ootd, airport, carry on, what to wear, layers

Since I was going somewhere hot I was able to pack lighter fabrics and materials. Always make sure to pack at least one decent sweater just in case it gets cold. For my travel outfit I wore a leather jacket and wrapped an additional sweater around my waist.

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Wrapping an extra sweater around your waist is kind of a cheat tip as it won’t count towards the weight of your carry on. Plus it’s great to wear when in flight because it tends to get super chilly!

shoes, travel, packing, pack a carry on, how to, efficient, planning2) Pick out Essential Footwear

Shoes take up a lot of room in a carry on. Choose the bulkiest shoes to wear to the airport, but make sure they are still comfy. You’re going to be walking around the airport and when the plane takes off your feet will swell up, so you want to be wearing something that will allow a little give. I wore my sneaker wedges during travel. I also brought a pair of sandals since it was going to be hot and some comfy Puma ballet flats since we were going to be walking around a lot at the theme parks.

packing, clothes, roll your clothes, packing a carry on, weekend bag, travel, airport3) Roll your Clothes

Instead of folding your clothes, a great tip is to roll your clothes. When you roll them you save so much more space in your luggage and also decrease chances of wrinkles. If you are packing any fragile items you can use your clothes as buffers as well.

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4) Adhere to Liquids Restrictions

The most difficult part of packing a carry on is packing your liquids. When travelling anywhere it’s always a good idea to check the guidelines for carry on liquids measurements, qualifications and regulations. Since we were travelling to the U.S I made sure to check the TSA site.

Let’s make this basic, alright? Basically, anything over 100ml (for example a bottle of  shampoo) must be checked. So if you’re committed to bringing a carry on exclusively then say bye bye to bringing full sized toiletries.

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To dumb it down even more for myself I purchased this nifty little TSA approved cosmetics bag from Target. This bag comes with three empty bottles, one empty spray bottle, a small empty container and a funnel. I used the three empty bottles for my facial cleanser, thermal hair protector and eye makeup remover. I used the empty spray bottle for my leave in conditioner and the container for my moisturizer.

Some other good tips:

  • if you go to Sephora a lot you’ll know that they always give you a little sample with every purchase of some random product. I keep these, clean them and reuse them for travel purposes. In this case I filled some up with foundation and primer.
  • Whenever anyone tries to hand you some samples, TAKE THEM! I keep a little collection of them and save them for when I’m travelling. On a daily basis these samples seem a bit useless, but for travel they are a goldmine.
  • If you have a small product that is extremely below the 100ml limit, don’t be afraid to pack it.

The key component of this bag that makes it TSA approved is that it is completely clear and see through and it carries exactly 1 quart of products. As long as you can close this bag then it meets the TSA guidelines. In other words try to cram as much as you can in this little guy that you can! If you can’t get your hands on one of these just use a large freezer bag. Also when you’re at the airport, don’t forget to leave your bag out when going through security. This ensures you go through quickly without having to dig through your bags to fish it out.

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5) Pack the Basic Necessities

Majority of the time we tend to over pack. Thinking of every scenario possible tends to result in a large suitcase full of unnecessary items. When it comes to packing your makeup essentials (non-liquid) here are a few tips:

  • Pretend like you’re going to be stranded on an island for a few days. What must have items are you going to need to look like a normal human being every day? For myself, I need foundation, concealor, brow powder and mascara. Now build on that. What about if you need to look like a normal human being in pictures? This is different because we tend to look washed out in pictures. I will need to add some eyeliner, lipstick and a basic eyeshadow palette.

personal item, travel, carry on, airport, airplane, michael kors

6) Maximize your Personal Bag

Along with a carry on, you’re usually able to bring a separate personal item such as a purse. Use the biggest bag you can find that is within the parameters outlined by the airline you are using. I love this particular Michael Kors bag because of it’s seperate compartments. Easy to keep thing organized and not so much jumbled in a giant mess. Use your personal bag to pack all your fragile and precious items that you don’t want to lose such as your electronics, wallet, passport etc. The main reason for this is because you’ll be keeping this bag on your person the entire time! Even when sitting on the plane you can keep these items close and at hand.

7) Extra Tips

I’ve created a basic checklist that I like to use when packing. This ensures that I don’t forget anything!

  •  During the week leading up to the trip create a checklist. I like to keep a note on my phone and throughout my day, anything that pops up in my mind I quickly leave a note for myself.
  • When packing go through your daily routine: waking up, getting ready for the day etc. and pack whatever you use in your regular routine.
  • Keep in mind weight requirements. When done packing, weigh your luggage to see if you’ve gone over or under.
  • Don’t forget to leave some extra room for souvenirs or shopping that you might bring back home with you.

I hope this post was helpful for you. I know I hate packing and I tend to (aka. always) leave packing for the night before I leave. Since this is the case it’s always great to have a game plan in mind so you’re not frantically over or under packing.

Do you have any helpful tips when it comes to packing? Let me know in the comment section below!